December 17, 2012

Multiple WiFi prompters on a budget

An affordable WiFi teleprompting system with centralized scripting and playback, using technology from Datavideo, Teradek and IntraTec, has been put together by the UK-based European distributor Holdan.

With this system, which uses Datavideo’s iPad and iPhone prompter kits, scripts loaded into the tablet can be played back via the speed controller to give the presenter complete control.

Now Holdan has integrated wireless streaming technology to enable remote playout to any number of prompting screens from a central PC controlled by the studio manager.

Co-ordinating scripts between prompters in this way allows presenters to read the same text from differently positioned screens around a studio. The scripts can be sent to multiple iPad-based prompters within a range of 30 metres.

This centralized approach means that any last minute edits can be made live and relayed instantly to each screen.

The wireless system is based on the Teradek Cube mini encoder combined with an IntraTec Bridge high-powered WiFi transmitter. Scripts are produced on a PC or laptop using the freely available MirrorScript tool. The scripts are streamed to any iPad-based prompter running the free Teracentral app.

The iPads, housed in Datavideo TP-300 cue kits, become fully automated distributed teleprompter systems that can be remotely controlled and updated immediately from a central point.

“This type of distributed teleprompting system used to be the reserve of broadcast TV studios. Now web studios, video studios and local TV stations can liberate their presenters from being tied to a single prompter, while centralized playback control gives the studio manager total control over the pacing of a story,” explained Richard Payne, Holdan’s Technical Development Manager.

The Holdan WiFi Teleprompting Solution should cost less than £1,500 (+ VAT) for a dual wireless teleprompter system (excluding the PC and any iPads).

By David Fox

November 18, 2012

Bradley Bonds with Skyfall + Skytrac

Bradley Engineering’s new U4-F remote pan and tilt head for digital cinema cameras was developed for the new Bond movie, Skyfall, primarily for use in cars (notably M's Jaguar) with the Alexa M split-head camera, but it could also have applications in sports production.

It has ten gears for very precise slow or fast movement, and uses a traditional style wheeled controller. What excited some visitors who tried it at IBC was how smooth it is, thanks to in-built processors, which would make it perfect for an object tracking system.

For sports applications, “our head could be used to automatically have a camera smoothly follow a player around a pitch,” said the company’s founder, David Bradley. “This hasn’t really been possible [before], because in order to make it smooth you have to have a very high data rate, but our head takes care of it. It works out the positions in between and gives a very smooth move.”

Also new is Bradley’s high-speed Skytrac Lite, which was originally designed for possible use on a natural history production, as it is small and can be battery powered.

However, the first one has been sold to Remote CameraSolutions (which also commissioned the original Skytrac HD used for Sky Sports golf coverage), and has been used for ITV and Sky Sports, including the Speedway World Championships, where its top speed of 75mph (120kph) enabled it to keep up with action.

The dolly alone weighs about 4kg. Add a GY236 gyroscopic remote head and it weighs about 9kg (plus batteries and downlink). But it would be possible to order a lighter, more basic version.

“It is simple, lightweight and easily portable,” said Rory Watson, head of special projects, Bradley Engineering (pictured with the Skytrac Lite).

At IBC, Bradley also showed two of the Torchcams it developed for the BBC to cover the Olympic Torch Relay for some 8,000 miles (almost 13,000km) around the UK - which were used in and on a converted horsebox (pictured above). 

It made four of Torchcams: a Gimball 2 (self-levelling) that was mounted on top of the OB trailer for wide shots; a smaller GY236 head, used for long-range shots of the runners; and two HD10 fixed cameras.

By David Fox

November 05, 2012

Panasonic AF100A/AF101A update

It seemed as if Panasonic had forgotten its AF100/AF101 Micro Four Thirds-based AVCCAM camcorder, but it has finally announced an update: the AG-AF100A / AG-AF101A.

The new A series looks identical to the existing model, but will now be able to record 1080p 50/60 (at up to 28Mbps) internally and will produce a 10-bit 4:2:2 output via HD-SDI for recording on an external recorder (compared to 8-bit output on the previous model).

Although this means that the AF100/101 hasn’t been totally forgotten, it is a rather limited upgrade. Given that Panasonic’s own GH3 stills camera can record 1080p 60p/50 at 50Mbps IPB and 24p at 72Mbps ALL-I internally, it seems a shame that the camcorder should lag so far behind a much cheaper stills camera.

Admittedly, the new GH3 only has 8-bit 4:2:0 output via HDMI (although given what hacks have done to expand the recording options on the existing GH2, one would hope the GH3 will be similarly tweakable).

The AF100A/AF101A also gets an expanded focus assist function, which enlarges the centre of the displayed image, and 2.39:1 (cinema scope size) safety zone marker.

Besides the GH2 and GH3, the other option for anyone with an investment in Micro Four Thirds lenses is the upcoming MFT version of Blackmagic Design’s Cinema Camera. It has certain advantages over the stills cameras in terms of faster connections (Thunderbolt), higher bitrate recording and smartphone-like controls (although the GH3 will be controllable from a smartphone), but is not as ergonomically usable as the AF100/101 (nor have its dual XLR audio inputs). However, it does cost less.

The AG-AF100A (the US version) and AG-AF101A (European version) will be available later this month with a list price of €4,150 excluding VAT (about £3,300 or $5,300).

By David Fox

November 02, 2012

BSI catches the wave wirelessly

Broadcast Sports, Inc. (BSI) provided mobile radio frequency (wireless) cameras for the recent Quiksilver Pro Surfing Championship in France, including its new remote-controlled, waterproof Pan Tilt Roll Zoom camera.

The elite tour event featured surfers from around the world competing on 4-6m waves and was shown on Eurosport TV and Fox Australia, and broadcast live on the website -

Because of changing weather and surf conditions, the competition moved along the beach each day in search of the best waves, so BSI put together a package with two RF cameras that could be operated anywhere along the 10km stretch of sandy beach.

It deployed the new, waterproof, wireless PTRZ camera, which was developed for coverage of sailing at the London Olympics, plus a handheld radio camera, with a Land Rover carrying four radio links. The set-up had four feeds with point-to-point links and multiplexers that fired back to a master receive point.

The Land Rover could move up and down the beach, up to 8km away from the media compound, which was producing the live web cast. BSI could send back the radio camera, PTRZ, live feeds from the OB truck and scoring for the competition from any point down the 10km stretch of the beach, without having to move the whole production.

Wireless PTRZ

The PTRZ camera was mounted on a pole to get views of the crowd along the beach. Being wireless it could be moved anywhere along the beach and even taken into the changing rooms, where BSI could still receive a signal.

The dome-shaped PTRZ is available as a rental item from BSI, and can also be used for land-based applications that require a particularly robust camera.

Its features include: a 1080i HD camera; 10x optical zoom lens; compact 210mm x 165mm case; and it weighs 2kg.

It pans 360° continuously, tilts through 60° and rolls  +/- 30°. These movements and the zoom, red/blue gain, iris, focus, shutter speed, saturation, master gain and master pedestal are all remotely adjustable and the operator can adjust RF parameters and switch from standby to operational mode.

The PTRZ uses COFDM wireless encoding at H.264 MPEG-4 and MPEG 1 Layer II with QPSK and 16QAM modulation and operates at 1.4-1.5 GHz or 2.0- 2.5 GHz. BSI can supply models for other frequencies.

3D camera systems

BSI also has a new 3D wireless camera package designed for live broadcast use. It includes camera control, remote convergence, and return vision to the camera.

It uses low delay encoding, and BSI uses its own dual-stream mini encoder/transmitter, about the size of a cell phone, to carry the left and right signals simultaneously, to ensure both signals remain in synch.

BSI developed its own UHF camera control, allowing an operator to adjust the camera parameters and control convergence between the left and right eyes using the camera manufacturer's control panels, which means that images from the 3D rig can be matched to the images from other cameras on the production.

By David Fox

October 31, 2012

Atomos releases Avid DNxHD support

The new AtomOS 4.0 operating system upgrade for the Atomos Ninja-2 and Samurai external recorders, will support Avid’s DNxHD production codec in addition to Apple ProRes, so that user’s recordings can be directly editable in their non-linear editor of choice.

The update is free of charge and downloadable from the support section of the Atomos web site.

“There has been huge demand from our customer base for Avid support,” said Jeromy Young, CEO and co-founder of Atomos. “Now, editors have a choice of native codec for their editing system. Both Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD provide higher quality, with higher bitrates and 4:2:2, 10-bit resolution. Both are ready-to-edit straight from the Samurai's HDD or SSD, in your preferred NLE.”

AtomOS version 4.0 allows encoding to Avid DNxHD in the following formats: High - 220/185/175Mbps (10-bit); Medium - 220/185/175Mbps (8-bit); Low - 145/120/115Mbps (8-bit). The firmware has apparently been well received by customers who were invited to beta test it following a successful preview at IBC in September.

The HDMI-equipped Ninja-2 and HD-SDI-equipped Samurai field recorders allow the recording, monitoring and playback of 10-bit uncompressed images straight from a DSLR or camcorder directly to Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD.

AtomOS 4.0 is being released only for Samurai now, from It is a full working version, but Atomos refers to it as a pre-release because it will be further updated to support Ninja-2 in late November.

[[UPDATE: Atomos has introduced new Samurai Blade with a sharper monitor and upgraded operating system (AtomOS5) – it has also cut the price of both the Samurai and Ninja-2]]

October 30, 2012

Sony PMW-F5 + F55 4K cameras

Sony has announced two new 4K cameras (the PMW-F5 and PMW-F55), plus the impending arrival of the 4K upgrade for the NEX-FS700, as it begins to get serious about moving beyond HD. The new cameras will use a new codec: XAVC. All the cameras use single Super35-sized CMOS sensors.

Sony started its move into 4K (4096x2160 pixels) with the F65 last year, and now has a range of 4K-capable equipment, including domestic and professional LCD and projector displays.

The high-end F65 is well regarded in the film industry, and the camera has been used on such movies as Oblivion and After Earth.

In fact, the F65 is now going beyond 4K, following its version 3.0 upgrade it will also be able to shoot 6K and 8K Raw (it uses a full 8K/20-megapixel sensor). It will also be able to shoot at up to 120 frames per second in 8K. It can be fitted with a new 0.7-inch OLED viewfinder (the first such for this type of camera), and has received several other film-related additions, such as anamorphic lens support.

However, as the F65 moves even further upmarket, the F55 and F5 should slot seamlessly in underneath it.

Open codec architecture

The cameras will support four codecs: XAVC, for high frame rates and 4K, MPEG2 at 50Mbps, MPEG4 SStP (Sony’s SR Master codec) and Raw 4K “by the switch of a button, depending on what job you want to do,” said Olivier Bovis, Sony’s Head of AV Media.

The F5 and F55 will need the new AXS-R5 recorder for Raw, but everything else will be recorded internally on a new, faster, memory card: SxS Pro+, which will support higher frame rates and bit rates – it is about 20/30% faster than an SxS Pro card at writing/reading and comes in 64GB and 128GB versions.

The F55 will be able to simultaneously record both MPEG2 50Mbps and XAVC 4K to the same SxS Pro+ card, which means you can have a readily usable 50Mbps version for offline editing in a 4K production, or just hold an archive of 4K shots for the future while shooting for today’s broadcast standards. You should also be able to record Raw 4K at the same time to the R5 recorder.

Internally, the F55 will be able to record HD (1920x1080), 2K (2048x1080), QFHD (Quad Full HD - 3840x2160), and 4K, while the F5 will be limited to 2K and HD, but once you add the R5 both will record Raw 4K and higher frame rates.

The F55 “has a very wide colour gamut [same as the F65] and high frame rates: up to 180fps in 4K and up to 240fps in HD,” said Bovis. It also has a Global Shutter to avoid any rolling shutter skew effect or flash banding. The F5 will shoot at up to 120fps in HD. The F65 can shoot at up to 180fps at 4K and up to 240fps in 2K Raw.

The cameras are promised to offer a wide dynamic range (14 stops), high sensitivity, and low noise.

Viewfinders + monitors

Thanks to a new digital interface, the PMW-F5 and F55 will also be able to use the new DVF-EL100 1280x720 OLED viewfinder. There is also a new 3.5-inch 960x540-pixel LCD viewfinder (DVF-L350), offering 10x the contrast of previous Sony LCD viewfinders plus a flip-up eyepiece for direct monitoring, and a 7-inch 1920x1080 LCD on-camera monitor (DVF-L700).

The PMW-F55 can also connect to Sony’s new 4K 30-inch 10-bit LCD monitor (PVM-X300) for on-set monitoring, dailies and editing using four 3G-SDI interfaces to monitor pictures at 4096x2160 resolution at up to 60p while recording and playing back XAVC 4K images. It can also be connected directly to the 84-inch BRAVIA 4K LED TV for monitoring, but at a resized horizontal resolution of 3860 pixels.

Batteries + rigs

The F5 and F55 also use compact new Olivine (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries that promise twice the lifetime of conventional Lithium Ion cathodes and provide an hour of power for Raw recording when using the R5 with either the F5/F55 (Raw is more power hungry than the other codecs). There is also a new 2x faster battery charger.

The cameras will also have a new shoulder rig, “so you can easily use it shoulder mounted. It’s very modular in how you want to use it,” said Bovis.

PL-mount lenses

The F55 and F5 cameras come with a PL lens mount, for use with high-end cine-style lenses, but Sony is also launching six new CineAlta T2.0 PL-mount lenses for the cameras (20, 25, 35, 50, 85 and 135mm).

Each is certified for 4K and is designed to minimize geometric distortion, vignetting and breathing. A 9-blade iris should deliver pleasing bokeh (out-of-focus effects), and the focus rings rotate 240°. For easy lens changes, each has the same external diameter, matte box diameter, and gear locations for follow focus and aperture. All are the same lenght except for the 135mm. 

The cameras are fitted with a native FZ mount (but the PL-mount adaptor is supplied), so users will also be able to fit other adaptors for Canon EF, Canon FD, Nikon DX, Nikon G, Leica M and even 2/3-inch B4 lenses.


The F5, F55, F65 upgrade, and lenses should be available by the end of January, but 2K and QFHD recording for the PMW-F55 and 2K for the PMW-F5 will be available through a firmware upgrade. Frame rates higher than 60fps will also require a firmware upgrade.

Prices should be announced in November.

NEX-FS700 + HXR-1FR5

At its introduction, last April, Sony promised that the NEX-FS700 would be able to record 4K, and soon it will, using the new HXR-1FR5 interface unit, which has 3G HD-SDI input, to deliver Raw data, and the new AXS-R5 recording unit – which uses a new generation of Access Memory Card with 512GB of storage. It will also require a firmware upgrade.

Although the FS700 can already record high frame rates in HD, it won’t have that feature in 4K, where the available frame rates will be 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p and 59.94p.

The HXR-IFR5 and firmware upgrade should be available between April and June 2013.

By David Fox